The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), charged with responding to major national disasters such as hurricanes Sandy or Katrina, has established for the agency itself a climate adaptation policy. But while FEMA may be preparing for climate change, many states are not, leaving millions of people vulnerable to disaster-related injury and illnesses, and exposing taxpayers to covering increasing disaster-related costs that could be reduced or avoided. FEMA has a role in overseeing emergency preparation in the states by establishing requirements for hazard mitigation preparation, but to date it has not required states to include climate change in their planning. The Public Health Institute is joining others in calling upon FEMA to address this gap.
This letter to the agency asks FEMA to align its efforts, by requiring states to prepare for climate change, and by providing the tools and guidelines states need to be ready for climate hazards. While we must work to mitigate the causes of climate change, we can also save lives and reduce suffering by preparing well for the results of climactic changes that are already locked in. Hazard mitigation preparedness can make a substantial difference in readiness to respond to climate-aggravated storms, heat waves, fires, droughts and floods.